welcome to nhk world "newsline," i'm gene otani in tokyo. here's a look at some of the stories we're following this hour. waiting for word. people are calling for the two captives to be freed as leaders in jordan negotiate with islamic state militants. toyota motor is returning to one of the planet's top racing events. the world rally championship for the first time in almost two decades. and business owners in china
are finding a futuristic solution for labor shortages, and soaring wages. concern is growing over the status of captives held by islamic extremists. there's been no word on the condition of the japanese freelance journalist or the jordanian pilot since deadline set by the militants expired on thursday. they demanded exchanging kenji goto for a death row inmate in jordan. but leaders in amman want islamic state to prove their pilot is alive and release him. the air force pilot moaz kasasbeh was captured last month after his jet went down during an air raid. jordanian officials immediately started negotiations with the militants for his release. but they couldn't reach a deal. media in the middle east say a rescue operation by u.s.-led coalition forces this month also failed. people in jordan have held rallies calling for the pilot's release.
>> translator: i would like to ask for the assistance of all the world's people under the name of all jordanian tribes and palestinians for our son, moaz kasasbeh to be released safely. >> militants reporting to be with islamic state posted a message online this week. they threatened to kill goto and kasasbeh unless iraqi death row inmate is released. they sent another one day's later saying -- another one days later saying the pilot would be immediately killed unless the prisoner is freed in exchange for goto. a jordanian court sentenced sajida al rishawi to death for her role in bomb attacks in amman in 2005. authorities say they're willing to exchange the prisoner for their pilot but they say they need to confirm he's alive.
>> we need a proof of life so we can proceed. >> japanese officials are closely monitoring developments. >> translator: our principle is that we will never bow to terrorism. we want to rescue the japanese national in line with that policy. to achieve that goal we've been receiving information and cooperation from jordan and many other countries. with such assistance, we will do our utmost to get the hostage freed as soon as possible. >> chief cabinet secretary yoshihide suga noted that militants have been unilaterally signaling their demand one after another. he says officials are doing all they can in a cool manner to get goto freed. we spoke with freelance journalist aiko tomb moto. she is now in erbil, iraq. she's been covering the islamic
state from northern iraq and syria. >> news reports about kenji goto are continuing. media say sajida al rishawi will not be freed unless it's confirmed that the jordanian pilot is alive. i spoke with an iraqi aid worker who helps displaced people. she noted that the situation may be tough for japanese people but she say she understands the response of the jordanian government government. she said she hopes kenji goto will be released. and that the pilot must be set free, as well. both syrians and iraqi still have -- in japan. many people have a favorable sentiment toward japan.
many have expressed sadness and anger at the incident. i was told by many people during my interviews that they are praying for kenji goto's release. i told them that goto is a journalist, and that he has always reported for people who are suffering. when they hear this, they look very sad. but the people are dying every day around here in the fighting. we are being flooded with displaced people. they are struggling with their daily life. people have told me many times that they wish more japanese would understand what they are going through. fierce fighting continues around mosul between kurdish forces and islamic state.
mosul is a city neighboring erbil, where i am right now. it is under the control of islamic state. sources close to the kurdish forces say the kurds and iraqi army are preparing operations to regain control of the city. they say they have already taken back several villages in the area. reports from syria say islamic state has already been driven out of the northern part of the country. observers in northern iraq say the militants are losing power in their area, as well. the situation surrounding islamic state may affect kenji goto's safety. nhk world, erbil, iraq.
muslims in japan are closely watching the hostage situation. a religious leader made a statement denouncing the actions of the islamic state militants. >> taking or killing of japanese hostage is also forbidden action. >> one group of around 50 muslims, including university students gathered in western japan to pray for the immediate release of kenji goto. >> translator: we muslims are worried about goto. the militants' violentability are against islamic teachings. >> i wish they will release the hostage, and i hope the drama already finish. >> muslims in japan are observing friday prayers by asking for the safe return of
the hostages, and world peace. officials with the world health organization say their response to the ebola outbreak has entered a new phase. they say the focus is shifting from slowing transmission to ending the epidemic. w.h.o. officials said only 99 new cases were confirmed in the three hardest-hit countries in west africa in the week ending on sunday. those countries are sierra leone, liberia and guinea. it's the first time that figure was below the 100 mark since late june. about 1,000 people were contracting the virus each week during the peak. officials said accurate surveillance and tracking of patients and those who come in contact with them are needed to end the epidemic. they said that more than 22,000 people in the three nations have either been infected or are
suspected of being infected with ebola. nearly 8800 of them have died. u.n. member nations in the asia pacific region have chosen japan as their sole candidate for nonpermanent membership in the u.n. security council. representatives of 54 asia pacific nations on thursday decided to unite behind japan. the council's 10 nonpermanent members are chosen by regional groups and serve for two years. the u.n. general assembly is scheduled to vote in october to choose replacements for five nonpermanent members. if japan wins more than two-thirds of the vote it will become a nonpermanent council member for the 11th time. that's more than any other u.n. member nation. japan's u.n. ambassador motohide yoshikawa says being the sole regional candidate has improved japan's chances. >> translator: i would like to spend the next year studying how japan might respond to various
matters as a council member. >> he expressed hope that he will work on key issues including security in east asia and security council reforms. ron madison is here with the latest on where prices are headed in europe. ron? >> well gene january inflation in the eurozone stayed in minus territory for the second straight month. officials at euro stat that's the statistical office of the european union released the preliminary figure for this month. the rate was minus 0.6% compared with a year earlier. the figure in december was minus 0.2%. falling oil prices are largely to blame. the european central bank will introduce a quantitative easing program in march amid concerns that the zone is slipping into deflation. unemployment figures for the single currency bloc in december were also released. the jobless rate of 11.4% is slightly better than november. well weak inflation data is adding to market jitters in
europe. investors are also worried about lingering uncertainties over greece. you can see that's putting a bit of downward pressure on the majors in the region. all of them are lower by roughly half a percent or so. here in asia markets ended mixed. tokyo rebounded 0.4% while shanghai slummed 1.6% dropping for the fourth straight day. mumbai also retreating from a record high yesterday. australian shares they did climb today for the seventh day in a row. and this is amid hopes of a rate cut there. moving on to currencies. reaction seems to be pretty limited right now. 9 euro is hovering at the 1.13 dollar level, moving away there 11-year lows reached earlier this week. the yen is also little changed against other majors. investors are likely to remain cautious ahead of fourth quarter gdp numbers. those are due out at the u.s. later on today. well toyota motor is rejoining one of the world's top races for the first time in 18 years. the japanese automaker plans to
take part in the world rally championship in 2017. toyota will enter with a vehicle developed from its exact car yaris. president akio toyoda said the aim of rejoining the race is to keep creating better cars. >> translator: participants compete with cars based on vehicles used every day. it's a most appropriate stage for putting drivers and cars through their paces. >> toyota joined the race in the 1970s and won three times before pulling out in 1999. the championship is held throughout the year across various countries. well officials at honda motors say a fatal accident in the u.s. state of texas involved one of its models fitted with potentially defective takata air bags. police and honda are probing if the defect caused the death. the accident killed a man driving a 20002 honda accord
earlier this month. his family says a metal fragment from an inflating air bag struck the man's neck and killed him. honda officials say the vehicle was subject to a recall due to problems with the air bags. a group of u.s. congress members had already linked five deaths to the faulty takata air bags before this latest incident. well the japanese government will raise pension payments for the first time in 16 years. but it's not going to be enough to offset the increase in consumer prices. officials at the welfare ministry said the change will take place in april. now they said pension payments should be raised by 2.3% if they're to keep pace with the increased cost of goods and services. but the ministry has recently implemented a calculation method designed to keep the pension system solvent. it factored in the low birth rate as well as the aging population, and calculated the payments should go up by 0.9%. after the increase the maximum national pension payment for an individual will be about $550 a month.
they're staffing space age servers. nhk world reports. >> reporter: she may be mechanical but this robot waitress doesn't spill a drop. >> translator: it feels really refreshing and hygienic, too. >> translator: i came as soon as i heard there were robots here. i wanted to check it out. >> reporter: these waitress robots are programmed through a control panel to take the food to the designated table. the robots have a life expectancy of ten years and cost $12,000 each. equal to hiring a human waitress for two years.
>> translator: right now there's a labor shortage in the service industry. and when we do find people to hire, they quit right away. robots cut our labor costs. >> reporter: the servers are manufactured by a company in schengen. for ten years this manufacturer has been making automatic vehicles or agvs for factories. the carts roll along magnetic tape on the floor so they can transport freight without human help. the company thought it could use the same concept to make waitress robots. after a lot of trial and error to improve the prototype they developed one that not only looks friendly, it also speaks. >> the robots are meant to be
safe. let's see what happens when i step in her way. >> reporter: the robot has been on the market since december. it's drawn a lot of attention from the restaurant business. >> translator: this robot speaks local dialects, too. >> reporter: in just one month, 30 robots have been sold and more than 40 others were ordered. the next generation of servers will be able to take orders from customers. >> translator: as soon as we make improvements we get orders for the new models. we can't keep up with demand.
>> reporter: in china the one-child policy has created a shortage of workers. many manufacturers already use robots in production but it's expected more companies will follow. for the last three years since lcd tv manufacturer has spent several hundred million dollars a year on automation. it uses 90 robotic machines and the company is thinking of using more to cover labor shortages. the executives think the automation will make them more competitive. >> translator: we need to use our limited human resources for high-level technological duties and automate other tasks. it will be difficult to depend on human power amid the changes we're seeing in the manufacturing industry.
>> reporter: the number of workers started declining in 2012. now, robot replacements look set to become more vital part of service and manufacturing. we spoke with reporter about why china is so excited about automation. >> china is working to shift from accelerated economic growth to a new normal. in other words, stable growth. leaders also want to narrow the gap between rich and poor. if more people are to be employed in higher paying jobs it will be necessary to automate menial jobs. a survey of the robot industry indicates that in 2013 20% of the world's robots were sold in china. manufacturers of high-end robots from japan, germany and switzerland, also have entered the field. but experts point out that the key to progress in the
automation industry will be a further reduction of costs. >> translator: it costs too much to manufacture robots. if the robot market expands, and mass production is possible, costs will go down. and we will also be able to produce other new technology products. >> the ministry of information and industry technology plans to spend a billion dollars this year to promote robot manufacturing. the government is seeking to cooperate with the private sector to advance automation. a well-known japanese artist has been honored for creating one of the more popular manga series in the 1980s. katsuhiro otomo is the person behind akira. the prestigious award was renounced at the international comics festival in central france.
the prize is accepted on his behalf by a member of his publishing firm. the 60-year-old otomo made his debut in 1973. his series akira depicts life in a post-apocalyptic tokyo. otomo is the first japanese to ever have been given the lifetime achievement award. >> translator: to have a major prize winner from japan is proof that we are capable of increasing mutual understanding between different cultures. >> he says such understanding is needed more than ever following the recent attack on the french weekly "charlie hebdo." in a statement otomo said he was surprised at winning the prize, and that it will encourage him to produce better comics. heavy snow and icy winds hit the british isles. making for traffic disruptions.
our meteorologist sayaka mori joins us for the details. sayaka? >> yes, gene people in the british isles experienced the wintry mess on thursday. strong winds, and heavy snow battered wide area. that affected traffic. now we have some video coming out of manchester. snowy weather hit scotland and northern england on thursday grounding flights and causing hazardous driving conditions. the snow plows were the only moving thing at the manchester airport. despite the call out for dangerous road conditions, long lines of cars were struck on the streets. some woke up to find their cars completely covered in snow. now the heavy snowmaker is starting to pull away from the british isles. so the area of snow and windy conditions are starting to cover the continent. as you can see the isobars are very closely packed. that means strong winds are blowing for a wide area. so quite cold conditions and also blustery conditions are affecting many parts of europe.
now, i want to focus on this low pressure system to the south. is actually packing quite a lot of moisture. enough to cause flooding rains for the mediterranean countries. not just for flooding rains, but we are expecting some large hail, damaging winds and also tornadoes, especially for the southern areas of italy and the western balkan peninsula into your saturday morning at least. so severe weather is also happening in the southern areas. now temperatures are going to be as follows in the double digits for the mediterranean countries in the single digits for the north. but still on the warmer side in moscow with high of zero degrees, 3 degrees in kiev on the last day of the business week. now, we have the first measurable snowfall of the season in tokyo on friday. the system is now located to the east of the kanto region starting to affect the tohoku region with snowfall and it should intensify even further and affect the western half of hokkaido as we go into the weekend. this is going to be a very heavy snow event. we're expecting winds -- snow of up to 50 sent meters into
saturday evening. and then gusts of nearly 130 kilometers per hour so blowing snow will reduce visibility. traveling is going to be very hazardous. and then across the other side of japan we'll also see heavy snowfall probably up to 40 centimeters of snow for tohoku and hokuriku region in the next 24 hours. snow and winds will continue to affect the north as we go into early next week. but tokyo and kagoshima will see sunny weather continuing for the next three days and temperatures are going to be not bad. now, across the americas snowy is still falling over the northeastern portions of the united states and southeastern canada. and we have another spot of snow over the four corners region. winter storm warnings and advisories are widely posted and the gloomy conditions will likely continue into your next week. into the weekend, i should say. and glendale arizona, super bowl game will be taking place on your sunday. rain will continue into saturday, but sunny weather
should come back on your sunday with 21 degrees. so perfect conditions for the players and audience, too. now another sport event is taking place over southeastern australia. we're talking about the asian soccer game. 26 degrees for the high. with a low 18 degrees with sunny conditions south korea will meet australia on your saturday in sydney. here is the extended forecast.
humans and monkeys aren't the only animals that enjoy soaking in hot springs. race horses have long suffered from aches and pains caused by their strenuous schedule. now, trainers are turning to the healing powers of onsen in the hopes of getting their steeds back on their feet. the waters at this facility in fukushima prefecture are hot, about 42 degrees celsius. that's exactly what the staff believe will help heal the horse's injuries. >> translator: they look relaxed. many of them fall asleep on their feet. >> the horses usually stay at the facility for six to twelve months for rehabilitation. the trainers hope one day they'll be back on the track. that's "newsline" for this hour. i'm gene otani in tokyo.
the fighting. negotiators try once again to reach a peace deal. bloodshed in the cyanide peninsula. a series of attacks killing nearly three dozen people. the man known as prime evil makes her role will be released after serving more than two decades in jail. also coming up, wide brands are willing to